Made In California is the long-awaited six-cd boxset by The Beach Boys. Covering all aspects of the band’s 50+ year long career in depth, the discs take you from their first release, “Surfin’”, all the way up to tracks from their 2012 album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio”. Along the way, the listener is treated to a complete catalog overview – including hit singles, album tracks, alternate versions, and a wealth of truly unreleased material.
Packaged as a hard-bound yearbook featuring many rare photos and informative quotes from the band, Made In California is an essential purchase for Beach Boys fans. Among the many outstanding highlights, I have picked ten tracks that perked my ears up and continued to pique my interest:
10) Meant For You (Alternate Version – Disc 3, Track 3): A tantalizingly short intro to the album Friends is almost triple the length in this never before released, extended version. Featuring a set of verse lyrics sung by Brian – he didn’t forget to name check ponies AND puppies. Chalk it up to 1968!
9) Sound Of Free (Disc 3, Track 29): A wonderful Dennis Wilson single (released under the name Dennis Wilson & Rumbo) from 1970. It has never previously been released on legitimate cd, possibly because a tape source wasn’t located until this box. A feel-good track co-written with Mike Love and Carl Wilson vocal involvement.
8) Soul Searchin’ (Disc 5, Track 7): Recorded during the Andy-Paley/Don Was produced album sessions (that ultimately never turned into an album), this gem of a song was resurrected by Brian and released in his own solo version on the 2004 release “Gettin’ In Over My Head”. This version features a backing track with some mid 60s charm elements. Carl’s vocal is passionate and heartfelt and the group sound is evident in the prominent background vocals.
7) Don’t Worry Baby (Alternate Vocal Take – Disc 6, Track 3): Thanks to a recently discovered tape, an early vocal attempt by Brian of “Don’t Worry Baby” has surfaced. The vocal is single-tracked, and really shows the influence of Ronnie Spector’s vocals on Brian. Keep listening until the last seconds and you’ll hear Brian riffing on a familiar vocal refrain as used on “Hawaii” and “Little St. Nick”.
6) Sherry, She Needs Me (Disc 6, Track 6): Started in 1965, lead vocal overdubs weren’t attempted until 1977 during the “Love You” sessions. Somewhat rough, but impassioned, the song languished in the vaults until Brian released a modified version (with lyrical content help from Carole Bayer-Sager) on his 1998 solo release, “Imagination”.
5) Do It Again (Stereo Mix – Disc 3, Track 10): All previous releases of “Do It Again” in it’s single version have been presented in mono or rechanneled versions. This fresh new mix finally provides some stereo separation and a good chance to hear the individual elements of the late sixties hit.
4) You’re Still A Mystery (Disc 5, Track 8): Another tune from the Paley-Wilson sessions. This one features a thoughtful Brian vocal (which may or may not have been recorded recently), with clear contributions from Mike and Al. A nice attempt at the “Pet Sounds” style.
3) California Feelin’ (Disc 4, Track 19): The first release of a Beach Boys version of this oft-attempted track. Notable for it’s inclusion of three lead vocalists…Brian on the intro, Carl on the main lines, and Bruce on the innocent refrain.
2) Where Is She? (Disc 6, Track 9): It’s not often you get to hear a totally unreleased, new-but-old Brian Wilson tune. Featuring a sparse arrangement of keyboard, Rhythm-King percussion, and a multi-tracked vocal, this is a classic Brian Wilson song that has never seen the light of a day. One could only imagine how magnificent it could have turned out if the group had polished it and worked on it during the Sunflower era, in which it was recorded.
1) (Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again (Disc 4, Track 4): A Dennis Wilson track of mythical proportions, this Surf’s Up outtake has been long rumored to contain some of Dennis’ best musical, lyrical, and vocal content. It doesn’t disappoint. This mid-tempo ballad features a heartbreaking lyric (co-written with Stan Shapiro) that ranks close to the heights of “Forever”. Dennis sings it smooth and takes his time with the vocal, while his brothers Carl and Brian back him up with Mike doing a classic bass vocal near the end.
Made In California is a fitting-tribute to the continuing legacy of one of America’s most iconic bands.